Pet clinics

Veterinarian RR reiterates the importance of vaccinating animals against rabies

Dr. George Abernathy kept saying one thing about animal rabies: don’t mess with it, period.

Dr. George Abernathy prepares to administer a rabies vaccine to a 3-month-old dog named Asher Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 at the Sunrise Veterinary Clinic in Rio Rancho. Matt Hollinshead/Observer

With the recent report of a rabid fox in Catron County being the latest example, the Rio Rancho veterinarian is urging pet owners to be proactive in having their animal companions vaccinated against the disease and to keep appointments. you regular vaccinations.

“You don’t want to fall with rage. It’s not fun to happen,” said Abernathy, whose patients — dogs, cats and ferrets — at Sunrise Veterinary Clinic receive first- and second-year vaccines and subsequent vaccines every three years.

Abernathy said the signs of rabies will only appear between a week and a year after first contact, and that rabies vaccines should be given before these signs appear.

“Once you show signs, your chances of survival go down,” he said.

Abernathy said that after a bite from a rabid animal, the virus follows the nerves to the brain. The virus replicates in the brain and then returns to the salivary glands, he said.

“Usually between when it’s in the salivary glands and when the animal is dead, it’s only a few days,” he said. “Once (the virus) came back into the salivary glands, now this animal is contagious to everyone.”

A common source of rage

Abernathy said bats in the Albuquerque metro area are known to carry rabies.

According to data from the New Mexico Department of Health, 13 Bernalillo County bats have tested positive for rabies since 2011. Sandoval County has had three cases of rabid bats since 2019, while the Santa Fe County reported a rabid bat in 2013 and another in 2017.

“Bats are everywhere,” Abernathy said.

He said it’s hard to tell if a person or animal has been bitten by a bat, given the small size of a bat bite and because it doesn’t necessarily leave blood. This further reinforces the need for a pet to keep up to date with rabies vaccines.

“You don’t know if your animals have been bitten by a bat because it’s going to happen at night… There are no marks, and you don’t know,” he said. “It is therefore very important to have your pets vaccinated. You don’t know when there will be exhibit, and there are bats all the time. In my garden I have a night light and every summer I see bats flying.

Preventive measures

Abernathy said people should make sure they don’t have any previous injuries or have an animal come in contact with their face, as rabies can be spread through a bite or even a lick in those areas. .

He said a pet can be asymptomatic after exposure or can start “attacking everyone”. He also said it makes it harder to know if one has contracted the virus and harder to react to it.

“The problem is that the signs are very, very vague,” he said.

Abernathy cited a rabies outbreak in Doña Ana County in which one day puppies were friendly and hugging people, only to be found dead the next.

“Anyone who got kissed by a puppy now had to get a rabies shot,” he said. “But the dogs weren’t aggressive, they weren’t feverish, they were just happy and they were dead.”

Abernathy said it’s much safer for pets to already be vaccinated against rabies before potentially being exposed to a rabid animal. If a person is exposed to or bitten by an animal that has contracted rabies, whether it is their own pet or a wild animal, he said treatment is an injection of immunoglobulin followed by a rabies vaccine.

Abernathy said there are low-cost animal vaccination clinics in the metro area, adding that Sunrise’s price is $27.50 per rabies shot.

“I’m sure they can find it even cheaper than that, but it has to be (done) by a vet,” he said. “They should be able to get reasonable vaccines for their family, but it can save your life and it can save your pet’s life.”